For many folks, dipping their taste buds into the wide world of wine can be a daunting proposition. So many countries, so many varietals: How do you know what you really like? While most people will readily dive into a new beer—eagerly tasting gorse, Scotch ale, Belgian white, doppelbock at their local brewery—many are skittish about sampling an unfamiliar wine. We spoke to local wine expert Amy Currens about what it takes to develop a novice palate. Currens is a certified sommelier and has been a longtime hospitality and wine industry professional. She teaches wine appreciation classes though UNM’s Continuing Education.
The Paper.: On the most basic level, what separates a white wine drinker from a red wine drinker? Do most drinkers choose a side and stick with it? Is that a mistake?
Currens: When it comes to wine drinkers, it’s not about pigeonholing anyone. Wine is universal and, in so many cultures, part of the ritual of eating and drinking together. Red, white, rosé … some people have formed a preference, but tastes often change.
How would you advise a person set out to find what their preference in wine really is?
I’d say find a favorite wine retailer, opening up the conversation with, “I am getting into wine, where do you recommend I begin?” The wine expert will lead the rest of the questions to figure out how to guide. As a matter of fact, anyone into wine will be excited to guide a new taster by asking questions about what they like to drink other than wine, and favorite foods. If you feel too “on the spot” talking with the wine expert, there are a lot of great online wine retailers with great descriptions of wines as well as their wine clubs, which are often staff recommendations made easy.
What are a few of the simple descriptive wine words a person should learn to look for and to ask for when figuring out what they like?
A few descriptive words are: fruity, dry, earthy, sweet, lighter, denser. These help guide recommendations. And then, are they in the mood for white, red, sparkling or rosé? And yes, there are a lot of dry rosés out there.
What is the difference between a sweet wine and a fruity wine?
Sweet wines have residual sugar. Fruity wines can be sweet, but only if there is sugar present. If no sugar, sometimes ripe fruit nuances can seem sweet and smell sweet, but sugar is detected on the tongue. And no reason to fear sugar. Like Coca-Cola or lemonade, sugar is often there to balance acidity, as evidenced in some of the greatest rieslings in the world!
Any personal recommendations for local N.M. wines?
I’ve been having fun trying some of the Vara wines. They are collaborating with some great winemakers, including Bob Lindquist and Louisa Sawyer Lindquist of Verdad and Lindquist wines, and our local Gruet Winery. (Longtime Gruet drinker, here, as well.)
To learn about Currens’ upcoming wine classes through UNM or about customized wine tasting events, go to gambolwine.com.